While many celebrated Martin Luther King Day in January, most still honor the civil rights icon throughout Black History Month, recognizing his mission to change the world.
The determined leader was fearless and determined to achieve equal rights and justice for all Americans, actor and literary advocate LeVar Burton said.
Burton has been a regular presence at events honoring King, such as one he attended in Oakland, California, a year ago in which he encouraged those in attendance to be just like King and dismiss any fears in pursuing the American dream.
Certainly, the late great civil rights icon was a man with a mission. But what emboldened King and made him so determined and fearless?
Burton and others said he refused to tremble at any man or challenge.
“Fear is in fact an agent of death,” Burton said. “We must be fearless, like King, in the pursuit of our dreams,” he said.
When the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial was unveiled on the National Mall, one television station noted that it was a testament to a visionary man who championed racial liberation before a reluctant nation.
“King’s selfless and fearless example derived from a moral and strategic genius built on a foundation of faith and courage that defined the greatness of his leadership. He now joins Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt in a hallowed place set apart from all others,” editors at Ohio’s WTOP wrote.
In a post for hiphopandpolitics.com, hip-hop historian and radio host Davey D said many have failed to talk about how, shortly after King’s speech opposing the Vietnam War, major newspapers from around the country vilified the civil rights leader.
“They accused him of being unpatriotic,” he wrote. “Not only did he lose support amongst the mainstream, he also lost a lot of his popularity among other blacks and civil rights leaders.
“Many felt that he stepped out of his lane and that by speaking on the war, it would mess up their funding,” Davey D continued. “You don’t hear too many people apologizing years later for dissing King and abandoning him for speaking out against the war.”
Linda F. Williams, a professional life coach and author of several books, including “Too True to Tell: Why What We Don’t Say is Leading Us Down the Path of Stolen Vision,” said King was as determined as anyone.
“I would call him courageous because in the face to fear, he played to a higher purpose,” she said. “Take a look at his expression during the March 1968 sanitation workers demonstration. Look at his face April 3, 1968, as he addressed that group 24 hours or less before he would take his last breath.
“During that speech, he all but foretold his demise,” Williams said. “Toward the end, his agony-etched expression told it all. No, great men and woman are not those to whom fear is nonexistent. Great men and women are made of those who feel the fear and do it anyway.”
Kyle McMahon, a youth ambassador with the United Nations and an influencer on President Barack Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, said King’s vision for a better world was what drove him forward.
“A world where one could make it no matter the color of their skin,” McMahon said. “A world where we weren’t given merit on the color of our skin but the job we finished well done.
“King was fearless because the message was bigger than himself,” he said. “It wasn’t about him at the end of the day. It was about equality. He knew that he was equipped to deliver the message and if anything were to happen to him the message would blow up even bigger than it had been.”